Courses: First-Year Seminars

First-Year Seminars are offered every fall semester for incoming students.  With the exception of RHET 195 courses (available only to students who place into RHET 130/131 or RHET 195 for their Core A2 Writing Composition requirement), all of our First-Year Seminars courses are open to every incoming, first-year student.  Transfer students may enroll in one of our Transfer-Year Seminars

Questions can be addressed to the First-Year Seminar Program Coordinator, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Academic Assistant Dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, Jeffrey Paris.

Fall 2019 Courses

Core A1 - Public Speaking

COMS 195-02 Sports Talk

CRN # 42407
John Ryan
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Sports Talk uses the world of sports to investigate public discourse. You will use the rhetoric of athletes, coaches, owners, and fans as a springboard into the study of public speech and public communication. The class emphasizes a critical approach as students immerse themselves in the history of sports communication from the early twentieth century up to the present. Students will have the opportunity to explore the historical and social changes that have been inspired by our national fascination with sports. We will visit local venues and examine what these facilities say about our priorities and our values.

Core A2 - Rhetoric and Composition

RHET 195-01 Writing about Human Rights

CRN # 40104
Julie Sullivan
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:45 a.m.

What does it mean to have rights?  Do all humans share equal access to these rights? And, if they do, then why do we see human rights violations go unpunished throughout the world, including in our own country? In this class we will explore the sometimes broad and overwhelming topic of Human Rights through the different forms of media available. Based on timeliness and interest, the course will explore Human Rights issues in areas such as: Criminal Justice, Employment, Education, Gender equity, Healthcare, Hunger, and Immigration. This class requires all involved to be learners, teachers, and individuals willing to voice concerns and create awareness. How you choose to vocalize will be up to you.

RHET 195-03 Language and Power

CRN # 40105
Brian Dempster
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

Language and Power examines the rhetoric of nationalism and the ways in which language and power are entwined. We will discursively analyze a diverse range of texts (laws, photographs, advertisements, films): who writes these texts, for what purpose, and with what agenda? How do we analyze past events through the lens of historical context and also current perspectives? How does inclusion/exclusion of certain events, perspectives, and voices impact the outcome of different texts? With a specific focus on how the rhetoric of nationalism has affected (and continues to affect) Asian Pacific Americans, we will link these discourses with other contexts within the U.S. and abroad and consider why issues of cultural (mis)representation must be addressed as we strive for social justice. Together with guest speakers and trips to local sites, we will critically discuss language and power, interact with primary and secondary sources, and craft papers in response to these course themes. [This course restricted to students participating in the Honors College.]

RHET 195-04 Race, Media, & Popular Culture

CRN # 40106
Regina Arnold
Mon. & Wed. 4:45–6:25 p.m.

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, many believed that we had entered an idyllic “post race” society. This, however, has not been the case, as countless comedy routines and political advertisements remind us on a daily basis. From professional sports to the VMA awards, race makes itself known, creating statements that are well worth examining in a classroom setting. That is why this course examines the way that race gets performed in American popular culture. The course combines the study of literary texts by authors like Toni Morrison, Sherman Alexie, and Junot Diaz with poems, speeches, films, video memes, and rap music in order to study the way that language, drama, and visual arts can enable historically marginalized individuals to articulate traumatic experiences, protest unjust conditions, and reshape others' perceptions. In addition, students will have the opportunity to attend several local theater and dance company performances.

RHET 195-05 Women, Rhetoric, & Power: Speaking Between the Lines

CRN #42533
Kara Knafelc
Mon. & Wed. 4:45–6:25 p.m.

What does it mean to speak? What does it mean to be silent? What does it mean to be heard? From antiquity to present day, women orators, writers, and rhetoricians have demonstrated a particular interest in addressing these questions. In this course, we will examine the work of numerous women rhetoricians, poets, and writers to explore how they have communicated their arguments in the political, artistic, and personal spheres. So too, we will explore the work of male thinkers and writers who have used “ventriloquism” to experiment with the liberated female voice. Finally, we will evaluate whether the rhetorical practices of women have something to lend to the broader social justice movement in its attempt to ensure rights for those who historically have been rendered voiceless and powerless.

Core B2 - Applied or Laboratory Science

BIOL 195-01 & 195L-01 Good Germs, Bad Germs w/Laboratory

CRN # 41090 & 41140
Louise Goupil
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m. & Thu. 3:45–6:00 p.m.

You may consider yourself human, but in fact there are many more bacterial cells in your body than there are human cells. This introductory course examines the science of microbiology and its impact on the human condition.  Some disease-causing microbes have led to tremendous suffering throughout history, while other microbes provide us with astonishing benefits, such as antibiotics to cure disease and the ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins.  Special emphasis is placed on topics that relate to San Francisco, such as the production of sourdough bread and ecology of the bay, and these will be combined with field trips.  In addition, the laboratory provides an inquiry-based, hands-on approach to examining the diversity of microbes and their application in human health, genetics and biotechnology, food and antibiotic production, agriculture and the environment.  Each topic provides a basis for discussion of current issues where microbes play a role.

Core C1 - Literature

ENGL 195-01 Shakespeare

CRN # 41343
Carolyn Brown
Mon. & Wed. 4:45–6:25 p.m.

The class concentrates on an appreciation of the literary and cultural greatness of Shakespeare, with the primary focus being on reading eight of his plays. We will look at the literary, historical, social, and cultural influences on his plays and his recognition of the decline of medieval values and the beginning of the modern world.  We will explore the moral judgments he leads his readers to formulate on topics such as  misogyny; domestic violence; the battle of the sexes; the marriage market; male anxieties about women; female empowerment; prejudice based on race, gender, and religious orientation; political "ethics"; social conformity; cross-dressing; fortune versus love; justice and the legal system; and envy and jealousy.  The class will enjoy several extra-curricular events: a visit to both the Rare Book Room in Gleeson Library and the Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park; and a performance by the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival Touring Company.

FREN 195-01 A Season in the Congo

CRN # 41441
Karen Bouwer
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

Street children (shegue), students, gang members (kuluna), child soldiers (kadogo), school kids, child “sorcerers”, charcoal-makers (makala): Contemporary representations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo abound with youthful characters whose lives have been shaped by historical forces in distant and recent pasts. Like many the world over, their futures have been foreclosed by economic, political, and environmental uncertainties. But the Congolese are masters of the art(s) of survival and they have much to teach us about the globalized world we all live in. Come and spend a season in the Congo to explore how youth strive to create oppositional practices and spaces of freedom for themselves and others. We will bring literary texts into thought-provoking dialogue with other arts including photography, film, painting, and music, both inside and outside the classroom, and enjoy enriching conversations with Bay Area Congolese. [Also meets Cultural Diversity or "CD" Core Requirement]

ENGL 195-01 Jane Austen, Now and Then

CRN # 4xxxx
Ana Rojas
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 9:15–10:20 a.m.

“Run mad as often as you choose, but do not faint!” warns a character in Jane Austen’s Love and Friendship. For an author who lived more than 200 years ago, Austen remains incredibly popular and her writing retains a vivid hold on the imagination. This course explores Austen’s enduring popularity and the relationship between her work and its influence on popular culture. Students in this class will read several of Austen’s novels in order to develop an appreciation of her incisive wit and distinctive style, and will also watch some film adaptations as a way of considering how and why her work continues to resonate. Whether you’ve never read a Jane Austen novel before and would like to start, or you’re already a devoted fan, this class is perfect for any student who wants to learn more about Jane Austen and her world, and how it relates to our own.

Core D1 - Philosophy

PHIL 195-01 Minds and Machines

CRN # 41750
Rebecca Mason
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 9:15–10:20 a.m.

You spend your entire life inside your own head. There is nothing that you know more intimately than the contents of your own mind: your beliefs, your memories, your desires, your fears, your pains and pleasures. Despite the fact that you are directly acquainted with your thoughts and experiences, the human mind is in many ways more mysterious than even the far reaches of the universe. In this course, we will investigate the nature of the mind, and the relationship between the mind, the brain, and the body. We will also critically examine some of the ethical and social implications of artificial intelligence.

PHIL 195-04 What is Wisdom?

CRN # 41753
Thomas Cavanaugh
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:45 a.m.

Literally, philosophy means the love of wisdom. So, philosophy is about our desire for knowledge, like wisdom. What is wisdom? Who is wise? Does wisdom make us happy? Is ignorance bliss? Why pursue wisdom? Wanting wisdom, yet not sure of what it is, we will ask these and other questions: does suffering lead to wisdom? does wisdom comfort the wise person? does the wise person comfort others? are science and technology wisdom? do they require wisdom to be used well? how does your USF education fit into a search for wisdom? is wisdom worth pursuing? We will ask these questions relying on Socrates, Confucius, Descartes, and the French existentialist Simone Weil; by reading the Tao Te Ching and novels such as Brave New World; by watching movies like The Matrix and Gattaca. We will also visit the San Francisco Asian Art Museum to see fascinating ancient objects related to Confucianism.

PHIL 195-07 Asian Contemplative Traditions in San Francisco

CRN # 42244
Geoffrey Ashton
Tue. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

This course introduces students to three contemplative traditions that emerged and developed in Asia and have continued to develop here in San Francisco. Focusing upon canonical philosophical texts within these traditions, we explore topics including the nature of existence, what it means to be or become oneself, the relation of the individual to other beings, and how goals of self-cultivation get realized through forms of disciplined practice. The course investigates the origins of Hindu Yoga philosophy, the foundations of Chinese Daoist philosophy, and Japanese Zen Buddhist philosophy. Throughout the course references are made to the larger cultural, historical, socio-political, and environmental issues that are relevant to these traditions today.

Core D2 - Theology & Religious Studies

THRS 195-01 Transcendence in Film & Fiction

CRN # 41977
Mark Miller
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

Why do we live?  What is real?  How do we know?  Human living is in many ways problematic.  Are there ultimately any answers?  In this course, we shall examine human life from its darkest depths to its most brilliant heights – from sin, nihilism, and violence to virtue, love, and reconciliation.  A community’s narratives, told in various forms, are considered a privileged way of sharing and reflecting on such fundamental questions, in part because they affect the whole person.  We shall examine the heights and depths of human life as narrated in novels and movies that stimulate our senses and our imaginations, challenge our meanings and values, and guide our actions and our lives.  Works we will consider include Dostoyevski’s Brothers Karamazov, Sartre’s Nausea, and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X.

THRS 195-02 Catholic Realism in Film & Fiction

CRN #41978
Cathal Doherty, SJ
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

Film and fiction offer much more than entertainment. When we watch a film or read a novel, we project ourselves into a world not of our own making, and we adopt a certain outlook, however temporarily, on the ‘big’ questions of transcendence and human destiny that face us all. Our goal in this course is to understand how these questions of transcendence and human destiny are raised and answered, even implicitly, in film and fiction. In particular, we examine works that draw out the great theological and spiritual themes of the Catholic faith, especially without any explicit religious references. Our central theme is ‘Catholic realism’ — the perspective that God is truly active in human life, a perspective on life which has shaped the world around us, including our university and our city. This course is open to students of all outlooks and requires no previous knowledge of Christianity or Catholicism.

THRS 195-03 Jews, Judaisms, & Jewish Identities

CRN # 41979
Aaron Hahn-Tapper
Thu. 12:45–4:25 p.m.

As individuals and communities, we enact constructed senses of self—identities—through our behavior and experiences. Shaped by cultures, value systems, histories, and narratives, our identities relate to virtually every aspect of our lives. This class asks students to explore this central part of being human, using “Jews” as an entry point. Rooted in Hahn Tapper’s award-winning book Judaisms—written precisely for this course—we ask “what does it mean to be a Jew in the 21st century?” in an effort to figure out students’ own social identities. We will look at how Jews have reshaped their customs, practices, and beliefs over the course of centuries, weaving together dominant and marginalized voices along the way. Each week, class will be held at an off-campus site of importance to Jewish communities in San Francisco, such as Adath IsraelCongregation Sha’ar Zahav, Contemporary Jewish Museum, JCCSF, and much more.

Core D3 - Ethics

PHIL 195-02 The Ethics of Integrity

CRN # 41751
Ron Sundstrom
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

Integrity is a core ethical idea. A person who possesses it are thought to be principled, consistent, and somehow whole.  Integrity has its potential downsides too. A person committed to their principle or value may be committed to wrong or even deeply harmful ones. This course is an ethics course that takes as its focal point the idea of integrity. It traces the idea through major moral theories, from Classic Greek and Chinese ethical theories to modern ones that prioritize obedience to rational principles, or maximizing some desired outcomes, or caring for others. The course explores how integrity confronts serious challenges and injustices, such as political authoritarianism, global climate change, racism and antisemitism. It even considers the possibility that having integrity is impossible. It concludes on a hopeful note through a reflection on the work of moral repair and the rebuilding of our integrity.

PHIL 195-05 When East Meets West

CRN # 41754
David H. Kim
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

This seminar introduces students to ethical traditions in Asia and the West, and how to compare and integrate these traditions. It also offers an introduction to various ethical dimensions of East-West encounter, especially across the last century and with special attention paid to U.S.-Asia relations. We will begin by addressing various elements of moral philosophy in Aristotle, Kant, and Mill, and the ethics of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. The course will then investigate through film and philosophy the modern encounter between various Asian and Western peoples and the ethical orientations they brought to the bear in the battlefield, the halls of congress, courts of law, the home, the construction of identity, the transformation of culture, and other aspects of social life.

Core E - Social Sciences

CDS 195-01 Youth and the City

CRN # 42057
Melissa Ann Canlas
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

Youth are everywhere, yet at the same time they are seemingly nowhere. Considered by many to be a temporary, transitional stage between childhood and adulthood, those label as “the youth” are often read as apathetic, with a self-centric way of carrying on with life. However, generation after generation, youth represent to many the key, and strongest hope for a more advanced, inclusive and diversified future. This course focuses on youth movements in the United States, with the mission of seeking and securing social justice for those positioned as marginalized groups. We will examine the adaptive capabilities and strengths of selected youth led movements, as well as their weaknesses and shortcomings. This course will provide a historical understanding of youth led/participation in movements in multiple generations, along with the space to capture/generate questions, concerns and develop class projects that will help the participants in this course tackle the difficult question, “What is my generation’s mission(s)?”

ENVA 195-02 Food & Farming in San Francisco

CRN # 41373
Rachel Brand Lee
Fri. 11:45 a.m. – 3:25 p.m.

Food and Farming in San Francisco begins with a broad overview of our current industrial food system and its many attendant societal problems, including widespread food insecurity, massive food waste, and growing food deserts. Next, we explore local alternatives to industrial agriculture, including urban agriculture, small-scale food purveyors, and more communal and equitable forms of food distribution. Along the way, we will get our hands dirty with garden work days at the USF Community Garden, the New Liberation Garden in the Western Addition, and the Tenderloin People’s Garden; with field trips to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Off the Grid on Haight, and GLIDE’s Feed the Hungry program in the Tenderloin; and with cooking/preserving workshops in the USF Garden and at nearby St Cyprian’s Church.

BAIS 195-01 The Immigrant Experience

CRN # 41051
Quỳnh Pham
Tue. & Thu. 8:00–9:45 a.m.

In this course, we will consider how global movements of migration are shaped by different histories, geopolitics, economies, cultures, and ecologies. In particular, we will focus on experiences of migration that are tied to various forms of displacement. “No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark / you only run for the border / when you see the whole city running as well,” writes Warsan Shire. We will think together about the meanings of home, the production of “shark,” the demarcation of borders, and the conditions of running. The course draws from multiple disciplines to address themes that include colonialism, war, labor, gender, sexuality, memory, cultural friction, and translation. Course materials reflect diverse migrant experiences and combine different genres such as short stories, poetry, films, memoirs, and ethnography. Students will compose analytical and creative assignments in addition to participating actively in class discussions and activities. [Also meets Cultural Diversity or "CD" Core Requirement]

MS 195-01 Media & Pop Culture in San Francisco

CRN # 41656
John Higgins
Wed. 11:45 a.m. – 3:25 p.m.

How do media and culture reflect struggles in society between competing individuals and groups? In what ways do Pop cultures, like Laffing Sal from the old San Francisco amusement park Playland at the Beach or the murals of the Mission District, struggle against Elite cultures, such as classic ”fine art” paintings at the art museum? What part might comics, social media, and social science play in this discussion?  We interpret “media” broadly. Through readings, discussions, and field trips we’ll dig into the meanings of the media and cultural mashups we consume . . . and create some of our own media stories as well.

SOC 195-01 Engaging Political Islam

CRN # 41923
Sadia Saeed
Tue. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

What is the relationship between Islam and politics? In what ways has this relationship changed over time? How is Islam represented in Western media? We address these and related question in Islam, Politics, Society. The course will begin with an introduction to the basic elements of Islamic faith and history. We will then explore the broad and oftentimes controversial topic of political Islam through a range of materials including academic writings, films, popular media, and group research projects. In the process, we will get versed on key debates on democracy, social movements, civil society, colonialism, Islamic revival, and gender and minority issues. Throughout the course, students will critically evaluate popular stereotypes of Islam while enhancing their understanding of central social, political and legal issues in Muslim societies.  [Also meets Cultural Diversity or "CD" Core Requirement]

Core F - Visual and Performing Arts

ART 195-01 Art and Multicultural San Francisco

CRN # 41021
Emily Breault
Wed. 11:45 a.m. – 3:25 p.m.

Description tbd.

DANC 195-01 Dance in San Francisco

CRN # 41291
Megan Nicely
Tue. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

San Francisco is home to one of the most vibrant and diverse dance communities in the country. Exploring the range of movement styles, dance artists, companies, and organizations at work in the Bay Area provides us with a unique opportunity to understand the vanguard of contemporary performance and the many historical and cultural threads that underlie these practices. By participating in a range of movement classes both on and off campus, attending performances, learning from guest artists, and engaging in both academic and creative movement activities, students will discover the ways dance both supports and challenges dominant cultural values, narratives, and ideals of its time.  No prior dance experience is necessary.

MUS 195-01 Opera (Love, Death, Intrigue) in San Francisco

CRN # 41720
Alexandra Amati
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:45 a.m.

Opera: where you can do anything so long as you sing it! This course explores the world of opera and the issues presented in (or hidden under) beautiful singing. We will learn about this often extravagant art form and what it says about the society in and for which it was created. We will deepen our discussion by attending three performances at the San Francisco Opera, one of the top three companies in the country. In class we will discuss the readings and bring the issues up to date through our own experiences, and we will study and view/listen to portions of operas from 1600s Italy to 21st century USA. No knowledge of music necessary, only curiosity, interest in challenging deep-seated assumptions, and openness to new ideas. Readiness to have fun a plus!

THTR 195-01 Theater in San Francisco

CRN # 42345
Gabe Maxson
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:45 a.m.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to one of the most vibrant, diverse, and dynamic theater communities in the country. In this course we will examine historical and current trends and themes of San Francisco’s theater and its development within the context of the region’s rich history as a center of social and political activism and experimentation; we will attend, study, and review a variety of performances by local companies large and small, in order to develop our own individual critical responses to, expectations of, and attitudes about, the artistic works we encounter.

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